We awoke in the knowledge that the day promised to be a long walk – over
16 miles, and to make matters worse, rain had been forecast to last most of the day. There was no alternative to a long walk, as there is no accommodation between Castle Acre and Sedgeford. What is more, there was no prospect of sustenance along the way – not even a Macdonalds!
Breakfast was self-service: good coffee with muesli, yoghurt, and nuts. Our landlady, Alison, kindly implored us to take some of the excellent bread and fruit with us for our lunch.
Our first port of call, was the structure which put the Castle in Castle Acre. It is tucked behind The Old Red Lion, and retains an impressive motte and bailey layout. It was probably constructed soon after the Battle of Hastings by one of The Conqueror’s henchmen, William I de Warenne, and subsequently modified and expanded by his heirs.
We headed north, and on the edge of the village, there was a prefabricated hut, temporary home to the Castle Acre post office and store, where we bought provisions to supplement our bread and fruit. By 9.30, it was raining with some conviction, as we followed an unclassified road running NNW. The path sometimes took us into squelchy fields adjacent to the road, but it was mainly grass verge under our feet until we reached Shepherds Bush – quite a landmark this – the highest point on the Peddars’ Way at 92m above sea level. Any views however, were blotted out by low cloud and rain.
From the Bush, our relentless NNW progress was along an unmade lane. It initially descended past what looked like an open prison for little people. But as we peered through the mire, we realised that it was a bleak piggery. Not a blade of grass within its confines; surely such conditions can only produce unhappy pork. Not much further on, we crossed a major road – the B1145, beyond which, our little lane was tree-lined, and we found a little nook which was almost dry. We stopped for coffee.
As it happened, the rain was easing off by 11 o’clock. As we continued on our compass needle course, my mind reached back to my pre-O level schooldays. I remember our geography teacher, Mrs. Morgan getting quite animated about Norfolk. I can remember mention of “sugar beet” and “sluice gates” but little else.
The flat terrain was not complemented by Norfolk’s big sky today. The clouds hugged the meadows and thickets. We passed a Norfolk Songline Sculpture. Five of these installations are dispersed along the Peddars’s Way. This one, about half a mile south of the A148, was our fourth. They act as Way markers, but are inspired by Australian Aboriginal culture in which ancient tracks are the source of poetry and song celebrating the landscape, history and mythology tied up with these old pathways. Certainly on this stretch, we had seen it marked in our Trailblazer book, and had been looking forward to meeting it for most of the morning!
North of the A418, on the map appears the name of Anmer Minque. What a fascinating name! But it is just a name on the map, there is no settlement or farmstead; just a heathland meadow. It transpires that Anmer Minque is the name of a barrow within the meadow. It has been dated to the late Bronze Age, 4,400 – 3,500 years ago. Besides being an ancient burial mound, there is evidence that Anmer Minque was subsequently used as a moot (meeting place) hill for the Freebridge Hundred during Saxon and medieval times. Freebridge nowadays seems to be an integral part of Kings Lynn; a Hundred was an administrative area, smaller than a shire. We saw many barrows on Hartley Common, but I think that we missed Anmer Minque! Apparently there are dispersed barrows in this area running along a NW to SE axis for about 2.6 kilometres. Even on the greyest of days, little bits of history just rise up out of the ground!
Rather late for lunch, we just sat on a drying grassy bank by the Peddars Way, and had a great little picnic – ham sandwiches, bananas and flapjacks! Our post-prandial walk did little for our yearning for variety. And we didn’t see any more barrows. To keep me going, Julia kept me moving forward by playing the hare to my knackered greyhound. We actually made good progress, and it wasn’t too long after our lunch that we could see Fring to our right.
The sight of Fring was a sign that we were nearly at Sedgeford. On reaching the road that linked the two villages, we swung left off Peddars Way, passed the grand gates to Sedgeford Hall, and were soon in the hub of the village. We reached King William IV Country Inn by four o’clock – not a bad finishing time after 16 miles. We had a pint in the busy bar before finding our room. It boasted a very wide bed, but was otherwise quite a compact room. The door to the bathroom had a very low casing, against the top of which I hit my head several times.
The inn was very busy in the evening, and was obviously a popular eatery. We settled for sea bass with capers and spinach, and a fish pie. Encouraged by the quality of our main meals, we asked for a desert menu. It never arrived; we gave it a good twenty-five minutes; we tried to catch the eyes of the fleeting waitresses. We gave up; we went to bed.